The MTA is urging Apple to update its facial-recognition technology so riders don’t have to take their masks off to unlock their phones.
In a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, MTA Chairman Patrick Foye asked that the tech giant to “accelerate the development of new technologies and solutions” to keep riders’ faces covered up, citing instances of customers “removing their masks in order to unlock their iPhones with Face ID in order to use their devices for other purposes, when standing on the platform and riding our buses, subways and commuter railroads.”
“At this time, there have been no coronavirus clusters traced back to public transportation anywhere in the world, and we want to ensure that continues by driving mask usage by MTA customers even higher,” the letter reads.
Though Apple recently pushed out an iPhone software update which automatically brings up the passcode entry screen if the phone senses that its user is wearing a face covering, Foye asked Cook “to take these efforts a step further.”
“Upgrades enabling users to unlock their phones while keeping their masks securely covering their nose and mouth would be beneficial in all public spaces, not just on public transportation,” Foye wrote.
The MTA would be willing to contribute digital and print signage in stations as well as on buses and trains to inform riders of any new updates as part of the proposed initiative.
“There’s nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement. “We are fully committed to continuing to work with the MTA to support their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”